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E-M:/ epa sues michigan peat

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>


     July 8, 1998--U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 and
the U.S. Department of Justice recently filed suit
against the Bay-Houston Towing Co. (Houston, TX), including its Michigan
Peat division, for illegally discharging pollutants into the Minden Bog and
Black River Drain in Sanilac County, MI.
The company mines horticultural peat from 850 acres of the forested bog.

      The lawsuit was filed on EPA's behalf by Justice on June 29 in
Federal Court in Detroit.  It alleges that almost every day since October
1972,   Michigan Peat has discharged wastewater without a permit into the
Black River Drain -- a tributary to the Black River,  which in turn flows
into Lake Huron.  The polluted wastewater -- containing aluminum, arsenic,
barium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, mercury,
phosphorus, sulfide and total suspended solids --  was discharged through a
complex of ditches.

       In addition, the suit alleges that for more than 5 years, the
company used earth-moving equipment to discharge soil, mud, clay, peat
moss, gravel, woody vegetation, and tree stumps into about 850 acres of the
Minden Bog.

       Michigan Peat does not have and never has had permits for these
activities, as required by the Clean Water Act.  The violations were
discovered by State and Federal inspectors.

       "EPA expects Michigan Peat to play by the rules," said David A.
Ullrich, acting EPA regional administrator. "Unpermitted mining activities
on Minden Bog have threatened both its unique
ecosystem and the water quality of the Black River and the Great Lakes."

      Minden Bog is one of the last raised bogs in Michigan, its spongelike
nature controls floods and its unique soil sustains many rare plants.

       In February 1998 EPA issued an administrative order to the company
to stop the illegal discharges and submit a wetlands restoration plan.  The
company  stopped dredging and filling the bog, but did not meet all the
terms of the order and contested it in court.  Several months earlier, EPA
had instructed the company to submit permit
applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality.

        The suit is asking the court to order the company to immediately
stop unpermitted discharges into the Black River Drain, stop unpermitted
discharges of material into the wetlands, submit a restoration plan for the
site, restore the affected wetlands to their original contours, and to pay
a penalty.

        Under the Clean Water Act, the company may be fined $25,000 per day
for each violation.


Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

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